What is a leader?
A leader is a person who guides others toward a common goal, showing the way by example, creating an environment in which other team members feel actively involved in the entire process. A leader is not the boss of the team, but the person that is committed to carrying out the mission of the venture.
Leaders exist to get things done. Leadership is needed beyond the bounds of politics and business. Leadership is needed in families; schools and universities need leadership; charitable organizations need leadership. In fact, whenever there is an opportunity for two or more people to collaborate to get something done, leadership is a key ingredient.
Here are 7 tips on the subject of leadership from those who have demonstrated themselves to be leaders:
1. “Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” Edwin H. Friedman – Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your mission and vision statements. A leader’s vision permeates the workplace and is manifested in their actions, beliefs, values and goals.
2. “Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.” John Gardner – Leadership is proactive rather than reactive. Leaders are good in crises – but they don’t sit around letting crises develop. Leaders identify potential problems and solve them before they reach crisis proportions. Leaders have an ability to identify and reap potential windfalls. Good leaders analyze and plan, then adapt their plans to changing circumstances and opportunities.
3. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams – Actions still speak louder than words, particularly when your philosophies and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Nothing builds and sustains credibility like someone who leads by example.
4. “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lipmann – John Maxwell calls it The Law of Legacy – A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. Leaders develop and grow people, people who will help to build and lead the future of the enterprise.
5. “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” Peter F. Drucker – Developing the confidence and capability of your people will raise their self-belief. Show them you believe in their potential. Encourage them to take risks. Help them to learn when things go wrong . A leader who boosts the self-esteem of people will always be more successful in retaining people.
6. “Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.” Rosabeth Moss Kantor – Great leaders have the ability to gain knowledge, acquire skills and adapt behaviours to achieve their goals. They always improve their skills and learn. They study people and learn how to effectively interact with them. They understand the importance of continuous learning. Leaders have the ability to ‘unlearn’ old behaviours and develop new ones.
7. “Whatever happens, take responsibility.” Anthony Robbins – It’s easy take credit when things go right, and shift the blame when things go wrong. It’s particularly tempting for a leader. A leader is positioned to blame just about anyone and anything when things go wrong. However, as a leader, you must take responsibility. When things go wrong, if your first instinct is to look for someone to blame, stop. Ask instead, “what can I do to help fix this?” You’ll only get better at what’s under your control.
In summary, a leader:
- Has a vision
- Has a plan
- Leads by example
- Develops people
- Builds confidence in people
- Keeps learning
- Takes responsibility
Look at this list above and ask, how well do I stack up against these seven points? What ONE thing could I start doing that will enhance my skills as a leader?